Lifting rural dwellers, reducing poverty through reportage
MANY media organisations in Nigeria have their headquarters in Lagos and Abuja. But this should also be made to serve rural communities in Lagos State and beyond, as the media have the entire country as catchment area.
However, this is not always the case, as rural communities are often left out of the loop of media reportage. The bid to draw the attention of the media to the importance of reporting rural communities formed the basis of a recent media workshop held by International Press Centre, Lagos, with support from the World Association for Christian Communications (WACC).
It was designed to promote solution-driven rural poverty reporting. On hand to provide some insight on why and how the media could better report poverty at the grassroots were Head of Department of Mass Communication, Dr. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika and the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade who spoke on ‘Reporting Poverty and Development: Media as Agenda-setters and Agents to Engender Grassroots Development’ and ‘Reporting Rural Poverty Issues: Skills and Methodologies for Conducting Investigations and In-depth Reports on Rural Poverty Conditions’ respectively.
Arogundade said that poverty issue is a development issue and if poverty is tackled then development would be attained. He spoke about the survey on coverage of poverty issue conducted by his organisation with the support of World Association for Christian Communication, and noted that the workshop was a follow up on the report. He said, “In Nigeria, we are not doing enough training and workshops.
In other countries, there are so many trainings helping to build capacity in different fields. So we should take it quite seriously. This is not the first time; in 2004 we had a similar project and it focused on some communities in Amuwo Odofin”.
Providing insight on the training, Programme Associate, International Press Centre, Mr. Sanmi Falobi, said that focus of the workshop was to equip some journalists with specific skills in conducting in-depth reports on diversity of poverty conditions and challenges faced by people living in select rural communities of Lagos.
For him, it had become important because in spite of Nigeria’s abundant natural and resources, social inequalities and poverty were endemic and needed to be highlighted.
He noted that though the media was trying, it needs advocate more on the need to address the concerns of the poorest segments of the population.
According to him, “The project is therefore conceived to improve on the media agenda-setting role on poverty reduction through informed report and commentaries on halting various forms of inequalities and infrastructural development deficiency that lead to poverty”.
He argued that things would change radically if the media did more in-depth reports on specific development challenges of poor rural communities and beam greater searchlight on the failures of political leaders with a view to mobilizing the citizenry for action through CSO engagement.
He added, “IPC through WACC support hopes to engage the media to addressing the poverty conditions of select rural communities across some local government areas in Lagos.
In this respect, eight print media organisations shall serve as the pilot, to addressing the desired changes in the poverty conditions of the rural poor.”
After providing some insight to the research conducted by IPC earlier on reporting of poverty by Nigerian media, Ogwezzy-Ndisika stated that poverty had many dimensions and should not be limited to household expenditure or welfare.
She stated that poverty include inadequate access to government utilities and services, environmental issues, poor infrastructure, illiteracy, poor health, insecurity, social and political exclusion.
She, therefore, argued that tackling poverty would help to ease the pressure on some public facilities and if the media did not report issues of poverty in the grassroots, then development would be far from rural communities. She said that media practitioners should have it in mind that when a report was done about an issue of poverty in a community, the concerned authorities may not take action immediately.
This, she said, was why journalists must be on a story until action was taken by the concerned government agency. “It is increasingly being recognized that the media can engender grassroots development by reporting poverty and development, given their agenda setting function. Thus, the media can help to instill among the public the idea that poverty is an essential part of under-development.”
According to the Mass Communication scholar, the ability of the media to focus on the poverty dimension of development therefore made it prominent in the audience’s cognition, which is the agenda-setting role of the media. “The media through news stories and angle/frequency of reportage can inform people of the glaring and growing poverty as well as counsel on the way forward using solutions’ journalism.
Therefore, media messages on the glaring and growing rural poverty in Nigerian can bring to the fore the issue and a possible intervention to alleviate it.”
She, however, said in a bid to doing solutions’ journalism, the media should not see it as hero-worship that glorifies individuals, one-off warming story and silver bullet stories.
She also stated that solutions’ journalism highlighted the why and how in a story along with answering the five Ws. She noted that solutions’ journalism puts the issues in broader perspective as well as providing critical analysis.
In summing up her presentation, she urged the media as agents of development to apply solutions’ journalism in addressing the various dimensions of poverty while writing stories on rural poverty with the aim of alleviating it.
Also, Arogundade gave different instances of poverty and noted that poverty issues were about lack of basic facilities or access to means of sustainable livelihood.
He maintained that journalists must be concerned with the issue of poverty because they also pay the price of poverty fueled principally by corruption. He stated that investigating poverty stories would require follow up and analysis skills, use of diverse sources and ability to tell compelling stories.